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By LARRY VAUGHT
After a down year for SEC basketball, the league has 10 McDonald’s All-Americans — six will be at Kentucky — scheduled to be on teams this year and provide a needed infusion of talent that even Kentucky coach John Calipari says should make for “some exciting stuff” in the league.
“You talk about Florida and (Jarnell) Stokes comes back for Tennessee; I think they’re going to be good. You start talking LSU and what they’ve got back and the guys they’ve got coming in. Any time you’re adding talent, there’s hope. And I come back to: Talent doesn’t guarantee you win, but bad players is going to guarantee you losing. That’s just how it is. If you tell me there’s a guy out there that says, ‘Well, I like to coach ‘em up,’ well, you go coach ‘em up, and let me go get talented guys. And I’ll figure out my challenge, which is: How do I get them to play together? How do I get them to sacrifice for one another? And that’s the challenge,” Calipari said.
However, Calipari says his players will quickly learn that past accolades mean nothing.
“Now, the great thing about coming in this league as an All-American: You have no choice. I don’t care if you’re a McDonald’s All-American or what you are; if you don’t play with your team, your team’s losing,” the UK coach said. So you’re forced here because of the league and going on the road and having to win in these buildings, which are tremendous, and the coaching that goes on in this league. You’re going to exploit a team’s weaknesses and a player’s weakness.
“So I think it’s great and when you start talking – I don’t know exactly how many (McDonald’s All-Americans) have come in the league this year, but it’s a big number. Not just us. It’s other guys. They’re not afraid to go after those level players. Because that’s the first thing: Can’t be afraid to hear, ‘No,’ every once in a while. Everybody thinks we get everybody we want; You’re out of your mind. We hear, ‘No,’ a lot. You’ve just got to be able to accept, ‘No,’ and say, ‘That happens sometimes,’ and, ‘Who does want to play?’ and move on.”